Published August 29, 2005
Over a period of nine months, a group of Hispanic young adults from 25 parishes, led by the Atlanta Office of Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry, joyfully prepared to experience World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany.
They gathered monthly to study the various messages that Pope John Paul II had given since the first World Youth Day in 1985, and through this study they prepared themselves and motivated others to participate in the trip Aug. 14-22.
On Aug. 9, the week before the group left for Germany, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated a bilingual Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta, to send forth the young people participating in this international event. They were then ready to join several hundred thousand young persons from around the world at the biennial event with the German native Pope Benedict XVI.
“During WYD we had precious experiences of sharing with youth from hundreds of countries, chatting with them in buses, train and airplanes, speaking in Spanish, Italian and English, which were the languages spoken by our group,” said Leonardo Jaramillo, director of the Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
Their group of 48 Hispanic Catholic young persons was mainly from the archdiocese but also included a small number from Florida, California, Alabama, Illinois and Tennessee, and Father Fabio Sotelo-Peña and Father Francisco Estrada accompanied them. In Cologne, they stayed with German families from the “Herz-Jesu Schildgen”(Sacred Heart of Jesus) parish, and had “incredible experiences” sharing with German Catholics who lived in devoutly Catholic communities. Jaramillo recalled how many families prayed the rosary daily and attended daily Mass, made pilgrimages to holy sites, went to confession at least monthly, and lived and passed on their faith amidst Protestantism, which for centuries has been in a rivalry there with the Roman Catholic Church.
Their long days ran from 7 a.m. until midnight, filled with catechesis, prayer between communities, traveling from city to city with thousands of other young people, and lines for just about everything.
Standing amidst several thousand others, “We were able to see Pope Benedict XVI when he arrived at the cathedral of Cologne by the Rhine River, and (we) took some photos from the riverbank where we were gathered,” Jaramillo said.
On the day of the vigil with Pope Benedict they walked four hours and 15 miles from the time they were dropped off from the bus to when they reached the Marienfeld (Field of Maria) where the closing Mass of World Youth Day was held. During the trek, the Atlanta group carried a two meter high, one and a half meter wide poster of Pope John Paul as a banner for the group as they sang and prayed the Way of the Cross. Others saw them singing and praying while carrying the poster. A police car pulled out in front of the large Atlanta group to make space for them to walk.
The group was blessed by the many pilgrims who kneeled, applauded and joined them in prayer or took photos, as they traveled to the site of the final Mass.
At the conclusion of World Youth Day, the young adults continued their spiritual pilgrimage with a brief trip to Rome, Italy. They returned to Atlanta Aug. 22.